Family Life


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Dos and Don’ts for Planning an Awesome Kids’ Birthday Party

Birthday Party Planning

Dreading the birthday party date on the calendar? We’ve got the dos and don’ts of party planning for kids’ events. Keep reading and we promise, your brain will be less likely to explode.

Even veteran party planners can find themselves overwhelmed by a birthday on the horizon. Kids’ parties take work (usually on a sliding scale depending on elaborate you want to get) as well as time and money. We’ve rounded up some of the tried-and-truth birthday dos and don’ts to make the party planning process as smooth as possible. 

The Dos of Party Planning

We’ve rounded up some important checklist items to remember as you plan your party.

1. Start early: Birthdays always seem to creep up on us (seriously, didn’t they just have a birthday?). Save yourself some stress but giving yourself enough runway to pull the party together—we say a month but we know this isn’t always realistic. Aim for at least a couple of weeks, and then set a reminder for yourself for a week earlier next year!

2. Set and stick to a budget: Parties come in all shapes and sizes. Determining how much money you’re willing to spend will ensure that you don’t panic in the leadup to the party. It’s also super helpful for the planning stages as you research loot bags, entertainment, decorations, food and more. 

3. Let your kid pick their theme: Kids love a good theme. Letting them pick ensures that they’re happy on their big day (and having a theme in mind also helps with party planning, as you’ll have a ready-made angle on activities, décor, etc.).

4. Make a guest list and be realistic: Consider the space you have available for the party (read: don’t invite the whole class to a small condo or a few kids to a big rec centre). Also consider your child, and the number of guests that will make them comfortable. (Is your child a major introvert? Click through for our article on party planning for an introverted birthday kid.)  

5. Send invitations early: Get those invites out as soon as possible. People are busier than ever and you want to be sure that you get your event on the social calendars of other families. 

6. Don’t forget to plan activities: Adults can go to a party and eat, chat, dance—no entertainment required. Kids, not so much. Plan age-appropriate games, crafts, etc. to structure the party in a productive way (otherwise, you’re going to be counting down the minutes until the party is over). If budget allows, consider hiring a clown, a character actor, a magician, etc.

7. Plan the menu with kids in mind: Party guests are going to be anywhere on the choosy eater spectrum. Kid-friendly or customizable foods are a good bet—finger foods, decorate-your-own cupcakes or make-your-own-pizza, a literal snack bar (think after-school snacks), etc. 

8. Ask parents about dietary restrictions and allergies: Your young guests may have preferences or requirements that should be considered when you’re planning your menu. Include a note on the invitation to parents to provide this information with their RSVP so you can be sure you have food and drinks on hand for everyone.

9. A little décor goes a long way: You don’t need to transform the space to make a party enjoyable. Balloons, streamers, banners, table settings, etc. can create a magical atmosphere. You can often find theme kits in party stores or on Amazon, to make this task as easy as…not pie, cake!

10. Expect the unexpected: Think about what could go wrong and have contingency plans in place. Outdoor parties should have an inclement weather plan or a rain date, for example. Always have an extra activity or two in your back pocket, in case you get through the party games too quickly. Have a quiet activity ready (colouring, reading) for kids who just aren’t in the mood to participate.  

11. Delegate, delegate, delegate: You aren’t a one-person show (well, you shouldn’t be!). Ask family members to pitch in with setup, supervision and facilitation. 

The Don’ts of Party Planning

Birthday party planning can be nerve-wracking. Learn from our experience and avoid these birthday fumbles.

1. Try not to procrastinate: The sooner you start planning, the less stress you’ll feel. Set reminders at the beginning of the year so the parties don’t sneak up on you. 

2. Don’t overspend: While it’s tempting to go all out, remember your budget. Your child will love whatever you plan; you don’t need to blow the bank to show them how much their birthday means to you.

3. Don’t overcomplicate things for yourself: Kids are easy. Yummy food, bright decorations, fun activities…you really don’t need much more. 

4. Remember the basics: Make sure you have enough seating, plates, cups, napkins and utensils. Things tend to get a little chaotic when you run short on these items.

5. Try not to be insensitive when it comes to the guest list: Don’t invite three-quarters of the class and expect not to hurt feelings. If you’re only inviting a few kids from school, consider sending emails to the parents to avoid having your child hand out hard copy invitations and inviting playground drama. (Tip: Schools can’t give out contact information for parents, but your child’s classroom teacher may be willing to pass an invitation along to a family you don’t know.)

6. If nothing else, make sure you have enough food: Hangry kids. Enough said.

7. Consider safety: Remember to have a first aid kit on hand, and do a proper review of the space before kids arrive. If there are hazards (things that can fall, things kids can climb, unsecured exits), be sure to speak to guests about them at the start of the party. 

9. Avoid micromanaging: If you’ve enlisted help, trust the individuals with their assigned tasks. You don’t have time to oversee every tiny detail of the day!

10. Don’t forget to be in the moment: It can be easy to lose sight of the joy of the day when things get hectic. Be sure to stop and take a moment to watch your child during their party. Be sure to get a picture with the guest of honour before the day is through, too. 

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